As Leadville Trail 100 approaches, Berino decides to help, not hurt
Summit County does have, among its active population, people who know so much about themselves, who know every limit of mind and body, who get so irritable at the thought of failure that they simply succeed because they tell themselves to.
One of them is Jeff Berino, assistant fire chief for the Lake Dillon Fire Department.
Berino’s accomplishments include running 126 miles in a 24 hour-span and making marathoners look like toddlers taking baby steps. He’s completed 14 100-mile ultramarathons, including three in one year, but this season, he’s taking a break.
For most, that would mean putting their feet up, opening a bag of Frito Lays and belching between reruns of gangster flicks. But for Berino, it means running 30 miles Saturday as a pacer for his friends during the Leadville Trail 100 ultramarathon.
“This is my first year off in 14 years of doing 100s,” Berino said. “But the year’s not over. I just decided to give my body a rest. I needed to return the favor to so many of my friends. I couldn’t have done these kind of races without pacers.”
Also called “muling,” pacing requires carrying gear like extra batteries, food, water, dry socks and keeping the runner thinking of things other than the finish line.
“You’re at 60 miles and you’re starting to hurt and you have 40 to go and you’re like, “What the heck have I done?'” Berino half-joked. The mental preparation for ultramarathon running, he said, is just as important as the physical training. This is why he’s 45 years old and hasn’t reached his peak.
“We’ve all got our best races ahead of us,” Berino said.
Berino is part of a Summit County clan of distance runners who pride themselves on conquering the limits of human endurance. Guys like David Wilcox and Roch Horton are also 40-somethings who get together and run a few times a week. They don’t measure their runs in miles. Try hours instead.
“This gets you in such good shape. You’re bulletproof,” Berino said. “We can go on an eight-hour run and come home and mow the lawn.”
Berino, who’s been a Dillon fireman for 23 years, ran marathons when he was younger. He helped his doctor complete a 100-mile race in 1990 and, figuring if his doctor did it, it would be all right for him to try. The first time out, he finished the race, but found it a bit shocking.
“I thought I was prepared,” Berino said. “Mentally, whoa. I was not prepared for the pain.”
But, like any other addict, he enjoyed the taste enough to try it again. He and his wife, Janis, came to an agreement that one a season is enough. After a long race, loved ones are used as literal crutches. Last year, while his wife left on an errand, he finished the race, barely made it up the stairs at the Delaware Hotel in Leadville, sat in the bathtub, and couldn’t get up.
“I had to bang on the wall. The neighbors came to help me,” he said, laughing.
But, he had just accomplished something very few people had. He ran 100 miles in 24 hours. He finished the last 30 miles with stomach problems. He puked. He heaved. He prayed for it to end.
“But it didn’t,” he said. “But then, I just thought, “heck, the finish line will be here. I’ll make it.'”
Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext .257, or at email@example.com
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